When I played softball at Sarah Lawrence College I was awesome. Every Friday afternoon for my physical education credits I would show up at Marshall Field and get a lot of hits, score a lot of runs, and snag every fly ball that came my way.
Never before had I been so awesome at the game. Earlier in my life I would flinch outta the way of pitches and ground balls. I thought I was just destined to be a strike out, but at Sarah Lawrence everything was suddenly different. Was it cuz of the generally weak level of competition from other artsy, sensitive men and women (mostly women)? Or was I finally reaching a certain maturity, physically, mentally, and courageously?
I mean I was dominant. In 1941 the legendary Red Sox slugger Ted Williams hit for an incredible .406 batting average, but in 2001 I batted .812. It’s true. Four out of every five times the ball would crack off my bat and find a gap between the fielders. It would knock runs in. I’d steal a base and then they’d bat me in. And it would have a direct impact on my team’s odds of winning the game.
I bought special softball style ¾ length sleeve shirts. I wrote short stories about the New York Yankees failing in the World Series. I wrote a play called The God of Baseball, and had the confidence to perform it on an actual diamond and paid an actual hot dog vendor to be there just for the smell. I played the titular role. I was The God of Baseball.
One time I even hit a homerun. It was a fat pitch right down the middle, and I swung hard and used the leverage of my body to hit a sharp line drive. The center fielder ran down hard from the warning track to catch it, but the liner was so sharp, and crisp, and true that it went thru his glove and struck him right in the face.
“Arrgh!” he yelled and collapsed.
Some people ran over to help him but not me. I kept running the bases. 1st. 2nd. 3rd. No one had picked up the ball to throw me out. Home plate. Home run.
I did check on the guy after I scored. His face was totally bloody. His hands were holding his nose, and they were covered in dark red. So was his white t-shirt. So was the green grass around him.
“Sorry, man,” I said. “You good?”
“Yeah,” he waved me off with his bloody hand.
As I jogged back to my bench I was pumping my fist.
“Yes!” I said to myself. “I’ve never felt so powerful before.”
I haven’t really played softball since college. I don’t know why. Maybe the conditions just never seemed to be quite as in my favor again. But my gods, sometimes I wish I had that big ole bat again. Swinging at things. Making contact. Putting up huge numbers. Breaking the skin of the things. Influencing the bones of someone else’s face. Could you imagine if I had a Louisville Slugger right now instead of a keyboard? What kind of victory would that lead to?
There are some experiences poetry can capture but not compete with.
– April 2014, Broomfield, CO
Listen to “A Sharp Line Drive” Here!
For more from Book of Baseball…
For more from the Nine Books series…